Browsing All Posts By

J. Olson

Blu-ray / DVD / VOD: Star Trek Into Darkness


For a series that prides itself on space exploration, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is surprisingly shortsighted, remaining a little too close to its roots as a television serial. From a cold open that acts as a rousing but ultimately insubstantial short film, the world of “Into Darkness” feels closed off, particularly during a protracted, hour-long space battle in the film’s second half. Yet, what the film sets out to do is done wonderfully. It’s exactly what a self-contained “Star Trek” film should be. This means that, strangely, its lack of ambition is both its biggest strength and most glaring weakness. (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD / VOD: The Place Beyond The Pines


“The Place Beyond The Pines” has no trouble pinning down its destination, but struggles mightily with the journey. This brand of character study should grab each member of the audience by the collar, dragging them into its fragmented world of crime, corruption, and moral ambiguity. But instead, “Pines” is content in tapping us on the shoulder and politely going about its business, weaving a decidedly unconventional tale of fathers and sons and the impact they have each other’s lives. (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD / VOD: Spring Breakers


One does not simply watch “Spring Breakers.” No, it requires that you strap in and keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. It’s a fireworks show as seen through a kaleidoscope, all while teetering on the ledge of a twenty-story building – just to catch a glimpse. And considering its stockpile of extremely R-rated material, a height requirement wouldn’t be out of place. Just as radio has transformed hip-hop into hip-pop, writer-director Harmony Korine has coupled his avant-garde sensibilities with a kind of pop-art explosion. The picture is David Lynch by way of Andy Warhol – all with a healthy dose of Britney Spears. But beware. If you’re not sure if “Spring Breakers” is for you, it’s not for you. (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD Spotlight (June 4th, 2013)


The picture sputters when its leads aren’t onscreen – the subplot featuring T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez is feeble – but such downtime is infrequent enough that momentum is never entirely lost. Additionally, the film would have been better off at 90 minutes instead of 110, but the scenes that are the most inessential to the plot provide some of the biggest laughs (see: Diana apologizing to Sandy’s wife). (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD Spotlight (May 21st, 2013)


Director Steven Soderbergh has insisted that “Side Effects” is his last foray on to the big screen. He’s been adamant in his plans to move on to stage work and writing and pretty much anything but film. And that’s his right. But screens won’t be quite as luminous without him behind the camera, nor will the filmmaking community be able to replace a voice as unique as his. (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD Spotlight (May 7th, 2013)


“Jack Reacher” is the kind of film that shows up, checks most of the necessary boxes, and leaves without a trace. It’s competent but undistinguished work – workmanlike but entirely uninvolving. Surprisingly, its wit – not its action – is its best quality, but its razor sharp dialogue is so overcooked that it ultimately becomes a liability. Once the audience realizes that the effort put into the story doesn’t match that of its verbal aerobics, the picture is over. (more…)

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out.

-Roger Ebert on “Armageddon,” July 1st, 1998

Roger Ebert was a titan – perhaps the titan – of film criticism, and his rise (which began in the late 60s) signaled a major changing of the guard. Tasked with bridging the generational gap between WWII vets and baby boomers, Ebert intelligently transformed the stuffiness of his forebearers into an accessible, yet still cerebral celebration of film. Along with his television partner, the late Gene Siskel, Ebert brought movies to the masses and served as a cinematic tour guide for millions, myself included. (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD Spotlight (March 26th, 2013)


“Lincoln” isn’t nearly as sweeping or as “Oscar-bait-y” as its trailers might lead you to believe, and ironically, that’s one of its weaknesses. It could have been one of the great, unabashed American movies, but instead, it’s just a competent but muted record of an American hero with some great elements. Some will argue that its genius is taking the “myth” out of mythmaking, but it could be just as easily asserted that that’s what it’s missing. A terrific early, esoteric scene visualizes one of Lincoln’s dreams, a motif that demands revisiting. (more…)

“Jurassic Park IV” Has A Director!

It’s no secret that Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was the formative film of my childhood, so I’ve never taken its sequels lightly. “The Lost World” is a decidedly mixed bag that still holds a special place in my heart (oh, nostalgia!), while “Jurassic Park III” has thrills to spare but falls short in nearly every other category. The long-awaited fourth entry into the series is set for June 14, 2014, 21 years and 3 days after the original roared into theaters. After numerous false starts, the final iteration of the screenplay has been penned by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who wrote the impressive but depressing “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.” (more…)

Blu-ray / DVD Spotlight (March 12th, 2013)


In lieu of completely spoiling the film’s conclusion, I will reveal that it’s suitably ambiguous and will speak differently to people from all walks of life, religious or not. When the clunkiness of the first act fades away, we’re left with a heartbreaking tale of growing up as a primal force of nature. (more…)
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